Wharram Builders and Friends

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‘Eva’ is a Tangaroa Mk1, built in the 1970’s, and in 2006, given to me.

The previous owner was an Australian, married to a woman from The Phillipines. They had lived aboard for some years, with the idea of sailing the boat back to Australia. This dream faded.

I had carefully avoided anything to do with boats for many, many years. I’d grown up with a boat builder father, who stopped early in the 1960’s, when it seemed timber was doomed, and GRP was the future.

Now, I had saddled myself with this hideous heap of rotten plywood. My dear children said it was just another aspect of mental deterioration. My wife agreed that this was probably so, but thought I should let the ball run, and maybe some sense might become apparent.

The moment I grabbed hold of a shroud and pulled myself aboard, I joined the lost legion of Wharram‘s mad army. What am I doing, stood on the deck of this hulk? Am I seriously thinking this mess has any future other than in a bonfire?

A year later, and I love the wretched thing. I can see the sense in her. JWD’s philosophy makes sense. Plywood makes sense. Cheap makes sense.

I’m doing some basic repairs, [removal and replacement of rotten decks, cabin hatches, deck hatches etc etc], but mostly I am doing a crash course in catamarans ¾ learning, learning and learning. Forty years ago I could have said, ‘Yes, I can build you a boat’. Now, I know nothing ¾ time and techniques have moved on ¾ and, apart from being able to saw joints in timber, I am starting from scratch.

It is totally absorbing. With the net, and free drawing tools, you can learn as fast as your brain can organise the incoming information. Amazing.


‘Eva’ is moored to a marina pontoon in Fareham Creek, [Portsmouth Harbour], UK. She is the first boat, [good], on a pontoon 300metres long.

The boatyard crane driver refused to attempt lifting her out, [the big, fat, wimp], which I did not mind at all, because I quite fancied the challenge of doing all the structural work while she was afloat.

Basically, the hulls were OK, and the top hamper was not OK. Exactly what you might expect of a neglected plywood boat in England’s rainy weather. The old story - salt water inhibits rot, and rainwater does not.

Our first task was to empty the boat, to let some air through. We inherited her more or less fully equipped for sailing , and for living aboard. I always find it sad ¾ chucking out a previous owner’s stuff. I’ve not had to do it on a boat, but many times from houses. It usually means someone’s dreams have not worked out. I always wonder if it amounted to a setback, or the end of dreams.

I could get on with doing basic stuff, but had to work out what the boat was going to look like eventually. I decided that while the flexible beam attachment made sense, I found it unacceptable, probably because of my background, working with structures that carried loads to the ground. I was simply not comfortable with it. Further thought made me unhappy with the idea of the sloppy rigging that must go with flexible beam attachments. This thinking is a weakness on my part I suspect, and comes from my total lack of experience sailing ‘cats’.

It also derives from my unwillingness to accept the handed down wisdom of anyone. I love the basic philosophy of JWD. Cheap access to the sea, coupled to a huge respect for it, is surely excellent. It does not make JWD a brilliant designer. Some of the details to his early designs are basically dreadful. Rot traps everywhere, guaranteeing decay, and ensuring condemnation of plywood as a boatbuilding material. I suppose it has to be remembered that he was trying to get a business off the ground.

Back to ‘Eva’, not in the tropics, where an open bridge deck might well be perfect, but in England, and on a boat which will probably go north rather than south.

So I settled upon a fixed beam boat, with some sort of centre cabin.

This is where the difficulties start, and the compromises begin.

Centre cabin, or ‘pod’.

I approached the problem this way:

I drew a great big cuboid on a plan of the boat. This occupied all the space from stem to stern, and the space between the two hull cabins. It allowed for full headroom.

Then, I reduced the size of this cuboid, according to what I understand to be the basic consensus on ‘cat’ design:

1. Maintain adequate clearance between water and underside of bridge deck.

2. A slice from each side to allow fro walkways to foredeck

3. A slope to the forward face to provide acceptable aerodynamic shape

4. A slice from the top ¾ keep existing boom height, and provide only sitting room in centre cabin.

5. Slope to sides of box, simply because it will look better?

The end result will be something similar to a ‘Romany’, by Richard Woods.

When you take account of the limits upon your dimensions, there is not much room for manoeuvre.

Views: 181

Comment by The Ethnic Catamaran Company on December 7, 2008 at 5:21am
Great observations!


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